Statistics watchdog investigates DfE’s academy claims

Union complains about 'disgraceful, deliberate misuse of statistics'

Union complains about 'disgraceful, deliberate misuse of statistics'

exclusions NEU

The government’s claims about the effectiveness of academy trusts are under investigation by the statistics watchdog.

The UK Statistics Authority confirmed today that it is investigating a complaint about Department for Education analysis submitted by the National Education Union.

Kevin Courtney, the union’s joint general secretary, revealed today that the organisation had complained to the UK Statistics Authority about data presented in the Department for Education’s “case for a fully trust-led system” document.

The document was published last month alongside the government’s schools white paper, which set an ambition for all schools to be in multi-academy trusts by 2030.

But the NEU accused the government of “misreporting” data to back its academies reforms, with leaders calling its case for full academisation “flawed”. Its own analysis accused the government of misreporting Ofsted grades and cherry-picking trusts for comparison.

‘The final thrashings of zombie education ideologues’

Addressing the union’s annual conference in Bournemouth today, joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said the “only way that the government can justify its obsession with academies and MATs is for it to deceive”.

She said the white paper was a “shoddy piece of work with no new ideas, other than to carry on grimly with structural reform which evidence clearly shows has failed in its aims to transform educational standards”.

The SEND green paper, published alongside the white paper last month, also “fails to provide for the scale of unmet need for children and young people with SEND”.

“Together, the white and green papers are the final thrashings of zombie education ideologues with zombie education policies.”

NEU seeks to recruit heads for anti-academies campaign

Courtney told delegates the union had “complained to the UK Statistics Authority about this disgraceful, deliberate misuse of statistics and the deliberate suppression of relevant data”.

He also revealed that the NEU is seeking to recruit headteachers and governors for its campaign against academisation.

The union is “writing to every councillor, every head teacher, every chair of governors to tell the truth about what the statistics show and to explain your errors”.

“And we will urge them alongside our members, parents and carers to resist this siren call for yet more structural change.”

In their speech, Courtney and Bousted also questioned the government’s aim that all schools will be academies by 2030.

They pointed to the last schools white paper, in 2016, which proposed converting all schools by this year. The measures were abandoned in the face of a widespread backlash.

“We defeated Nicky Morgan’s white paper six years ago. And we are fighting this white paper’s plan for all schools to join MATs now,” Courtney said.

The DfE has been slapped down over its use of data several times in recent years. Between 2017 and 2019, the department was reprimanded five times by the watchdog, with several warnings relating to its claims about school funding.

However, the NEU itself has also been challenged over its use of data. In 2019, it removed a claim about funding from its website after the UKSA said it was unclear.

The DfE was approached for comment.

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